WASHINGTON—The hallmark of a great work of art is that it moves you, and the ancient Chinese and Western masters alike believed the best of art should uplift and inspire. Aetna Thompson experienced art in a strikingly pure form at the Kennedy Center Opera House.
“It touches you. I cried, [at] the very beginning,” said Ms. Thompson, an immigration lawyer, of Shen Yun Performing Arts. She attended the Feb. 21 performance with Mr. Marshall Collins, who said the performance “took my breath away.”
Ms. Thompson described the heavenly vision in the opening scene: the Buddha descended to earth, heavenly maidens floated into the scene—female dancers who “were like angels, but they were also like water.”
“It was just very uplifting, quite beautiful,” said Ms. Thompson.
The American perception of China is largely only of communism, with dark buildings and smog, she explained, so far away from the legacy of 5,000 years of culture passed down from a time when China was known as the Divine Land.
“For Americans, to see this part of ancient Chinese culture is so precious, because we mostly do not know,” she said. “This was light and joyful.”
Like many theatergoers, Ms. Thompson noticed the uniqueness of choreography in the classical Chinese dances. Rather than casting a star center stage to be envied, she said all the dancers “seemed so supportive of one another; nobody needs to be the center.”
“They all worked together,” she said. “The discipline, and the interweaving of these girls, they’re so sweet to watch.”
As an opera aficionado who used to play piano, Ms. Thompson had much to say about the music as well.
“We kept talking about the bel canto, and the purity, the power of those voices,” she said, referring to the singing technique the vocalists employed while singing original Chinese lyrics.
“It was pure, clean, every bit. Both the soprano and the baritone, stunning. His final note, he was a baritone and he went way high, something a tenor would do, and it was perfect. And she, she went into coloratura. Gorgeous, gorgeous. And the piano player!”
Happily, she went on to elaborate, describing what she saw when she watched the orchestra members in the pit, dotting her description with exclamations of surprise.
And it was a surprising treat when erhu virtuoso Xiaochun Qi played a solo.
“I’m so happy that I saw this,” she said.
The performance also held a surprise for her in terms of her perception. Like most people, prior to the performance Ms. Thompson wasn’t aware of how central the role of the divine was to traditional Chinese culture. And when she saw it on stage, there was a moment when she paused to think whether this was something she would enjoy. An uplifting feeling soon washed over her and gave her her answer.
“They all danced joyfully, and it was okay,” she said, being reminded of a higher power and meaning in life. “It felt that we’re all the same ultimately.”
Reporting by Jenny Jing and Catherine Yang
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has four touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. For more information, visit Shen Yun Performing Arts.
Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time. We have proudly covered audience reactions since Shen Yun’s inception in 2006.